Atlantica recently interviewed Derek Estabrook, Vice President of Business Development for Eastward Energy, to learn more about the business’ operations and future in Nova Scotia.

Q. Please tell us about Eastward Energy. What do you do in the energy sector?

A. Eastward Energy is Nova Scotia’s natural gas distribution utility. Our company started as Heritage Gas in 2003 and has grown to be almost one-quarter the size of Nova Scotia Power on an energy-delivered basis. We have 75 employees and distribute natural gas to thousands of homes, businesses, and industries in communities across Nova Scotia including Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), Amherst, Oxford, and Pictou County. Eastward Energy is a subsidiary business of TriSummit Utilities which has a diversified portfolio of high-quality utilities in Canada and Alaska that serve approximately 284,000 customers, as well as renewable power assets.

In 2022 we re-branded to Eastward Energy to reflect our focus on the future of sustainable energy in Nova Scotia. Our new name highlights our commitment to creating energy solutions that will support our province in achieving its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Nova Scotia is connected to natural gas transportation grids that provide access to natural gas reserves from the Utica and Marcellus regions in the Northeast U.S. and from Western Canada. We have long-term transportation contracts to bring natural gas to Nova Scotia from the Dawn Hub in Ontario and the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania, where natural gas prices are generally low and stable to reduce seasonal price volatility and the overall cost of natural gas for our customers.

Q. What role does the business play in Nova Scotia’s energy sector?

Derek Estabrook, Vice President of Business Development

A. We serve many large industrial facilities in the province including Shaw Brick, Michelin, and Oxford Frozen Foods, as well as many hospitals, universities, government buildings, and Department of National Defence facilities. Most of these large customers have reduced their GHG emissions by over 30% by switching from furnace oil or Bunker C oil to natural gas. As a result, the annual emissions savings from natural gas in Nova Scotia are equivalent to taking 48,000 cars off the road.

Eastward Energy also plays an important role in improving the resiliency of Nova Scotia’s energy system. Because almost all our natural gas infrastructure is located underground it isn’t vulnerable to severe weather events, especially high winds, the way above-ground electric infrastructure is. As a result, a typical Eastward Energy customer will only experience a one-hour service outage once in every 70 years.

Natural gas heat pump in NS.

Q. What role can natural gas play in Nova Scotia’s net-zero future and what is Eastward Energy doing to advance low-carbon energy solutions?

A. The To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, almost all the energy Nova Scotia uses will have to be clean and our energy systems will need to be transformed while continuing to meet growing energy demand. Eastward Energy is focused on developing sustainable energy solutions that Nova Scotia will need to transition to a low-carbon economy.

We’re working on low-carbon energy sources, like renewable natural gas (RNG) and green hydrogen that can be used to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors like heavy transportation, high-temperature industrial processes, and heating for older and large buildings.

We can also use RNG and green hydrogen to lower the emissions intensity of the gas we distribute. RNG can displace conventional natural gas and natural gas can be enriched with up to 20% hydrogen and used in natural gas appliances like furnaces and boilers, water heaters, ranges, and BBQs.

Eastward Energy is well positioned to be an early leader in the pipeline distribution of hydrogen because our modern gas distribution system is one of the most hydrogen-ready natural gas systems in North America.

We’re working on a proposed green hydrogen project in Halifax that will produce hydrogen that can be blended into our natural gas distribution system. Hydrogen from the facility could also be used to supply hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles in the heavy transportation sector, like at the Port of Halifax or Halifax Transit, which has committed to transitioning its fleet of over 300 diesel buses to a zero-emissions fleet by 2030, likely with a mix of battery electric and fuel cell electric buses.

We’re evaluating innovative heating solutions for buildings such as natural gas heat pumps and hybrid heating systems. These hybrids consist of an electric heat pump coupled with a backup natural gas furnace or boiler. A smart controller connects the two and switches to the natural gas furnace or boiler during cold temperatures to reduce peak electric demand, ultimately lowering the cost of generating new electricity to meet peak demand.

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